OSU football: Iowa State tight ends pose unique challenge for Cowboy defense
STILLWATER — Unprompted, linebacker Devin Harper began talking about the challenge Oklahoma State faces in trying to contain Iowa State’s tight ends.
While most teams might have one good tight end, occasionally a team will have two good ones.
Then there’s Iowa State.
Around these parts, Cyclone tight end Charlie Kolar is well-known. A product of Norman North High, and the younger brother of former Cowboy quarterback John Kolar, Charlie — at 6-foot-6 and 257 pounds — is regarded as one of the best tight ends in the college game.
Next is 6-foot-7, 245-pound Chase Allen, who can be nearly as dangerous as Kolar. And to top off the tight end trifecta, Dylan Soehner is a 6-foot-7, 272-pound beast who is the best run blocker of the bunch.
The No. 6 Cowboys face No. 17 Iowa State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium. OSU’s defense has been sharp all season, but hasn’t faced a tight end group like Iowa State’s.
“We’re just focusing on stopping the quarterback and the tight ends and finding a way to win,” Harper said simply.
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According to Pro Football Focus analytics, all three Iowa State players grade out among the top 50 tight ends in college football. Kolar is a top-15 receiver and Soehner is a top-15 blocker, with Allen providing balance across the board.
Last season, Kolar had eight catches for 88 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys.
This season, the three tight ends are among Iowa State’s top six pass-catchers through four games, with the often double-teamed Kolar having pulled in 12 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Only wideout Xavier Hutchinson (20 for 229) has better numbers among Iowa State receiving options.
And all three tight ends will regularly be on the field together in Iowa State’s base offense.
“They use their tight ends in everything,” Harper said. “We’re just working on being rough with them and making sure they don’t get the ball in their hands.”
It’s rare to see an offense that throws as much as Iowa State use so many tight ends — although they’ve also helped running back Breece Hall average 132.8 yards per game on the ground.
“It’s different than what you see from most of us that play offensive football today,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “That’s the concept (coach Matt Campbell) has gone with. It’s a little different approach, but they do some really good things out of it. It’s a challenge for a defense to be able to contain those type of plays.
“You get some pull plays and things you don’t see with two tight ends much today, much less three tight ends. So it’s a challenge, but hopefully our guys will come up with a nice plan, get some quality reps on it and help us play well defensively in the game.”